Coast Guard awards Meritorious Public Service Award to Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard presented the Meritorious Public Service Award Friday to the crew of a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) marine unit during a ceremony at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sergeant Wilberto Pérez de la Torre; Agent Francisco Ávila Rivera; Agent Bienvenido Marín Rivera and Agent Gabriel Roldán García received the Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award, for their actions Nov. 8, 2013, while rescuing a three-man Coast Guard boat crew from the waters of Escambrón Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the Coast Guard boat capsized while searching for two swimmers in distress.

Capt. Drew W. Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan, presented the Coast Guar Meritorious Public Service Award to the FURA boat crew on behalf Rear Adm. Jake Korn, Commander of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District.

The boat crew of a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) marine unit COBRA-62 presented with the Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award June 13, 2014 at Sector San Juan, after being recognized for their heroic actions Nov. 8, 2013, while rescuing the crew of a Coast Guard response boat that capsized in the breaking surf off the Condado Lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while searching for two swimmers in distress.  From left to right are: José Caldero López, Puerto Rico Police Superintendent, followed by the crew of the FURA marine unit, Agents Francisco Ávila Rivera and Gabriel Roldán García, Sergeant Wilberto Pérez de La Torre and Agent Bienvenido Marín Rivera.  To the far right of photo is Capt. Drew W. Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. (Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Auxiliarist Vicente Vélez).

The boat crew of a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) marine unit COBRA-62 presented with the Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award June 13, 2014 at Sector San Juan, after being recognized for their heroic actions Nov. 8, 2013. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Auxiliarist Vicente Vélez

“Today we celebrate the courage and selfless action of four brave Joint Forces of Rapid Action police officers for saving three lives,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “We are proud to serve alongside the men and women of FURA, who day in and day out do an outstanding job in our common mission to save lives from the perils of the sea.”

“We are very proud of the work, dedication and commitment of our police officers,” said José Caldero López, Puerto Rico Police Superintendent. “They risk their lives daily by sea, land and air, and today we recognize our four boat crewmembers for their courageous gesture during the rescue of three U.S. Coast Guard crewmembers. Their diligent action prevented a tragedy from taking place.”

The Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award is the second highest Coast Guard public service award given to those recognized for displaying unusual courage in advancing the Coast Guard’s mission.

According to the award citations, the Coast Guard and FURA search and rescue units that had been dispatched during the morning of Nov. 8, 2013 to search for two swimmers in distress in the vicinity of the Escambrón Beach and Condado Lagoon, faced demanding and erratic sea conditions brought on by persistent building seas and winds. These conditions unexpectedly capsized the Coast Guard boat trapping her crew in the inverted hull until they escaped disoriented and injured into the breaking surf.

Unable to save themselves, the Coast Guard boat crew was in peril as they endured the dangerous and breaking surf.

Realizing that their fellow rescuers were now victims, Sergeant Pérez directed the COBRA-62 crew to search for the injured and awash Coast Guardsmen while assessing the safest point of entry thru the surf to facilitate a safe rescue.

Upon the COBRA-62 crew locating a survivor, Sergeant Pérez directed the boat operator on a course to quickly recover the survivors and depart the breaking surf for safer water. COBRA-62 boat operator, Agent Marín, performed and displayed keen and decisive seamanship by changing course and approaching the survivors from a more favorable direction which allowed for proper sequencing with the seas, while expertly maneuvering COBRA-62 alongside the awash Coast Guardsmen, who were struggling to survive the perils of the sea.

Once alongside the crew of COBRA-62, Agent Ávila and Agent Román, quickly and decisively took action using brute force and delicate care to quickly pull the struggling Coast Guardsmen from the turbulent sea. With the Coast Guard crew safely onboard, Agent Marín expeditiously exited COBRA-62 from the surf area for safer waters, while Sergeant Pérez ensured the survivors received medical attention and sent detailed reports of the situation to the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. Meanwhile, Agents Ávila and Roldán helped examine and applied first aid to the survivors and ensured their safety during the rough transit to the Coast Guard base in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sergeant Perez’s and Agents Ávila’s, Marín’s and Roldán’s courage and humanitarian service, as boat crewmembers of COBRA-62, helped save three lives. Their dedication to the Coast Guard’s and FURA’s common mission of protecting those on the sea is most heartily commended and in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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